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Dev Team Dashboard

How to build the ideal dev team dashboard

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Slack is great for communicating changes and events across a development team, but what’s missing is that ‘snapshot’ of the current state of play.

Sure, you can switch between tabs for Jira, GitHub, your CI/CD tool and monitoring tools, but a dashboard that brings this all together makes it much easier for the whole team to quickly get a shared understanding of what’s happening. A dashboard can also be used to share status outside of the team – with managers who may not have access to all of the underlying tools or don’t have the time to go digging.

In this blog we’ll take a look at how we can use the SquaredUp observability portal to build a dashboard showing the backlog, open PRs, CI/CD releases and application health, all in one place.

Here’s a quick look at the dashboard we'll build:

The team we’re building a dashboard for develops on AWS using Lambda and DynamoDB and deploys using Azure DevOps. They leverage GitHub for their code repo, JIRA for issue management, and AWS CloudWatch for monitoring.

Here’s what the team wants to show on the dashboard, and where that data comes from:

  • Backlog (JIRA)
  • Open PRs (GitHub)
  • Release pipelines to prod (Azure DevOps)
  • Application health (AWS CloudWatch)

SquaredUp has plugins for all of these data sources (and plenty more), which makes this dashboard easy to build without getting into any coding.

There are plugins that cover other CI/CD tools (AWS CodePipelines, CircleCI) and other monitoring tools (Azure Monitor, Prometheus, Datadog and so on) so it should be possible to build this dashboard for most dev teams—whatever tooling or stack is used.

Step 1. Building your dashboard

To get started, simply head over to squaredup.com/sign-up to register for a free account.

Once you’ve created and verified your account, you’ll be able to quickly connect to your data sources and start dashboarding!

SquaredUp has more than 60 out-of-the-box plugins (with more on the way) that enable you to connect to a range of cloud platforms, dev tools, databases, service management tools, and more. Feel free to check out our other blog posts to learn more after this Jira walkthrough.

Right, let’s dive into building this dashboard.

Start with a mock-up

A good way to start with building a dashboard is putting together a ‘mock-up’ dashboard that has all the right tiles in place, but no data. If you prefer to get stuck into the data and play around, that works too! It’s easy enough to rearrange the tiles once you start building

Here’s the mock-up for our team dashboard:

This dashboard is created in a new SquaredUp ‘workspace’ for the dev team. Having a workspace makes it easy for the team to add other related dashboards and use the workspace-based access control to take ownership of their own dashboards, independently of other dashboards in SquaredUp.

We won’t go through each tile and data source here (once you’ve done one, the rest are more or less the same).

If you’re reading this, then there’s a good chance you use Jira. For the purpose of this write-up, we’ll focus on how easy it is to plug into your Jira environment with SquaredUp.

Step 2. Connect to Jira

Upon creating your SquaredUp account, you’ll land in an empty workspace where you’re prompted to add a data source. For context, workspaces are where different teams can organize their data and knowledge across the tools they use, so feel free to leverage this organizational feature as you expand your monitoring. You can save an unlimited number of dashboards to each workspace.

Let’s jump right in and connect to Jira.

Click “add a data source”, and choose from over 60 options. You can search a specific data source using the search bar at the top, or browse using the filters on the right hand side.

Once you've selected Jira, you’ll be prompted to configure your data source by choosing a display name and inputting any other required information (API keys, domain URLs etc). These requirements differ slightly between tools.

You also have the option to restrict access to your data source, which is available to everyone in your organization by default.

It’s worth noting that SquaredUp doesn’t store your data (i.e., won’t create yet another database). SquaredUp plugins are lightweight connections that leave the data where it is and stream it on demand via API (e.g., when viewing it on a Dashboard).

Step 3. Visualize your data

Once you’ve successfully configured the Jira data source, we index all of the objects and object types you have access to.

Our revamped dashboard designer now makes it even to build a custom Jira dashboard. Find the metric you're looking for, shape the data, configure your visualization and add monitoring, all in a few clicks.

Let’s jump right in and build the dashboard.

In the left nav bar, click the ‘+' sign next to the 'Dashboards’ tab.

You can add a title and description for your tile at the top of tile editor.

There are 3 tile types to choose from: Data, Image or Text. For the purpose of this example, let's start with data.

Configure the tiles on your dashboard by choosing the following (steps may vary depending on which data stream you select):

  • Data streams: a list of all available data streams for your chosen data source
  • Objects: scope the data stream to show particular objects you want to visualize (only necessary if you select a scoped data stream)
  • Visualization: choose from line graph, stacked bar, gauge visualization and more.
  • Monitoring: set custom monitoring thresholds and receive notifications to Slack, teams, email, or custom webhook.

The visualization options are shown on the right of the dashboard designer. Which visualizations are offered to you depends on the data available, for example Line Graph will only be offered if there is time series data.

Customize your tiles even further by sorting, filtering or grouping the data, and setting custom timeframes.

Now we can start using any data from our Jira account in our dashboard!

The other tiles work in the same way, except the plugin configuration, which differs slightly between tools. The AWS CloudWatch tiles are a bit more interesting because the data can be visualized in line graphs and other ways, but the process is much the same!

And here’s the finished dashboard. It looks just the same as the mock-up but with real data!

This dashboard is now a quick place for anyone on the dev team to go when they need to see what’s happening - from who’s working on what, to deploy into production and the health of the app.

Of course, each team and organization will want to dashboard different data in different ways. We hope the example above offers some inspiration and insight into the many ways you can visualize different data streams from Jira.

See how SquaredUp Product Manger, Dave Clarke, uses the beautifully simple dashboard designer to create an AWS dashboard visualization in under a minute:

Getting more out of your dashboard

Getting a Dashboard up and running is a great start, but it’s just that...a start.  

Building this dashboard was simple and very effective, but in a way, it’s just the start of what you can do. Here are some ideas for other ways this can be used:

  • Slack integration to add links to this dashboard for routine team notifications. We can also set up alerting and rules on the dashboard to post to Slack when interesting things happen (unusual number of failed builds, open PR queue gets too long, etc.).
  • Sharing this dashboard with others in the organization - e.g. product managers and support teams. The best option might be to create a second, simpler, dashboard that’s external-facing, and keep this one specific to what the team needs to see.
  • More specific monitoring using AWS CloudWatch logs - e.g. configuring rules to watch for known log entries indicating problems.
  • Monitoring downstream dependencies, so the team can more quickly respond to incidents.

Thanks for reading and happy dashboarding!

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SquaredUp has 60+ pre-built plugins for instant access to data.